UNICEF, with the support of USAID, is working to install water pumps and toilets in camps for children and families displaced by the floods which swept through south Lao PDR late July this year.
Lao flood emergency
Delivering safe water and sanitation for children at risk
Witnessing the floods take their homes and in many cases livelihoods was an overwhelming experience for children and families. “I just remember water coming into my home and people shouting,” says Khao Yai, 12, who is staying in a camp in Bon Bok. “I don’t really remember much after that. We just had to go right away, we left everything.”
Khao’s experience is shared with over 4,000 other people who were displaced by the floods.
During such emergencies, access to clean water and sanitation facilities becomes extremely important to ensure people stay healthy and clear of potentially life-threatening diseases. This is why one of UNICEF’s priorities is to deliver safe water and sanitation facilities to hard-to-reach camps like Ban Bok, with USAID’s support.
UNICEF has also provided 35 water points and constructed seven latrines in Ban Bok camp alone. Soap, tarpaulins, buckets, bowls and jerry cans have been distributed to all camps except those which are inaccessible.
Handwashing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheaol diseases and pneumonia, which together are responsible for the majority of child deaths globally and become more prevalent during emergencies.
In order to deliver messages on handwashing, outreach teams supported by UNICEF visit camps to teach children about the importance of handwashing and how to wash their hands properly. Children like Khao take part in singing, dancing and storytelling activities to ensure they learn the right habits that will keep them safe for a lifetime.
“Our teacher already taught us how to wash our hands at school and I use the new tap a lot,” says Khao. “I’m also using the new toilet here, it’s much better than going out in the open.”
While it’ll take time to rebuild after what happened, delivering safe water and sanitation facilities to children like Khao, and their communities, is the first step to ensuring they stay healthy and happy.